The Charitable Man is Receptive to the Father’s Love

god's love - reaching and receiving

In order to show love to others we need to first experience love ourselves. Nemo dat quod no habet, No one gives what they don’t have. It goes without saying that everyone desires to be loved. It is a basic human need. There was a test they did, I want to say it was in Russia under the communist regime, where they had a lot of orphaned babies. They gave them almost the exact same care from the nurses, but for one group the nurses spent a couple hours a day holding the children and whispering to them. In the other group they still gave them food and changed diapers, but they didn’t hold them and speak to them. Most of the babies in the second group did not survive while those in the first group did.

Most of us have experienced love from our family, and hopefully from God as well. Our loved ones are limited, even if they love us a ton. God is not. God is not limited by time, space, or even words. That said, God rarely shouts his love for us. He does not force it on us. That means that we have to look for it – and be prepared to receive it. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” (Is 55:6) As Elijah experienced, God did not speak through the raging wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in a still small whisper. (see 1 Kings 19:13)

What are the things that you love? Is it sports? Books? Outdoors? Music? Pretzels? Breezes? God can speak to us through all of those things, and he frequently does. He also speaks to us through our friends and those we come in contact with, often those closest to us but sometimes even random strangers. The hard thing is learning to recognize him in those situations.

Lastly, we need to talk a bit about how we show love to others. Think about the way God finds the things that are particular to you to show you he loves you. Or think about your wife or girlfriend. If you know she loves yellow roses why would you get her pink ones instead of yellow ones? In the same way, when we show love to our children, parents, siblings or anyone we care about we need to do it in the way that they can receive it and in a way that speaks to their heart. In the Simpsons there is a scene where Homer buys his wife Marge a bowling ball (Homer loves bowling) and, even though it is supposed to be a gift to his wife, it has Homer’s initials engraved on it. Now, this is a comical example, but it touches close to home because we often get gifts for others that we want for ourselves. Or we try to love them in a way that we want to be loved, not in the way that they need to be loved. Trying to love others in the way they need to be loved requires extra effort, sometimes a lot of extra effort, but in the end, that is what transforms it from a selfish love to a selfless love.

From Dom Prosper Gueranger’s The Liturgical Year, on the Baptism:

Let us honour our Lord in this second Manifestation of his divinity, and thank him, with the Church, for his having given us both the Star of Faith which enlightens us, and the Water of Baptism which cleanses us from our iniquities. Let us lovingly appreciate the humility of our Jesus, who permits himself to be weighed down by the hand of a mortal man, in order, as he says himself, that he might fulfill all justice, (1 St. Matth. iii. 15.) for having taken on himself the likeness of sin, it was requisite that he should bear its humiliation, that so he might raise us from our debasement. Let us thank him for this grace of Baptism, which has opened to us the gates of the Church both of heaven and earth; and let us renew the engagements we made at the holy Font, for they were the terms on which we were regenerated to our new life in God.

Catechism 2792: Finally, if we pray the Our Father sincerely, we leave individualism behind, because the love that we receive frees us from it. 

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